Ethnic approach to weight loss

Jun 2, 2010 at 2:51 p.m. ET

It’s the regular battle of every summer: when it’s time to get into that bikini, it’s time for a crash diet. Unfortunately, a successful diet is not an easy feat to meet, and efforts often result in failure. With the US rate of obesity proving that chronic dieting isn't the answer, consider taking a global approach to find a long-lasting way to eat that will not only help you lose weight but also satisfy your taste buds.

Mediterranean Diet

Battle of the bulge

It's not a secret that the US is the fattest country in the world. We have the highest obesity rates, and the Centers for Disease Control shows that this number has been on a steady incline since 1985. We need to change our eating habits and leave behind refined sugars and partially hydrogenated oils and start looking at the diets of other cultures. Author and nutrition, health and fitness consultant Dr. Janet Bond Brill and Peachy Seiden, expert nutritionist at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Ohio, share their expert insight on the health benefits of the Mediterranean and East Asian diets and how a global approach to eating may be the best way to reach your weight loss goals.


Eating Mediterranean-style has been found to not only help with losing weight, but it has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. "The Mediterranean-style of eating is clearly the heart-healthiest and tantalizingly tasteful eating plan for promoting good health," says Dr Brill.

To wine or not to wine

The Mediterranean diet incorporates healthy and delicious foods, such as olive oil and even an occasional glass of red wine. Although the health benefits of red wine are still debated by health experts, wine is known to have antioxidants and has been shown to reduce the body's ability to clot blood, both of which are good for the heart. When you're first trying to lose weight, however, your might consider avoiding wine because of the calorie content.

Live longer on less red meat

Following the Mediterranean diet means that cutting back on steak and burgers and, in general, eating less red meat. Fish or shellfish are the star proteins in this global approach to eating. Consume seafood a few times a week, but don't fry it or coat it in butter.

Opt for olive oil

When cooking, use olive oil; its frequent usage is one of the greatest aspects of the Mediterranean diet, according to Seiden. However, even extra virgin olive oil with its heart-healthy benefits should not be used in great amounts. Dr. Brill points out that it still packs 120 calories per tablespoon.

Get your modest fill on healthy fats

You definitely don't have to avoid fats all together as this diet incorporates many "good" fats. Healthy monounsaturated fats can be found in foods like olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats that can be found in canola oil and nuts. Some fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which among other health benefits, has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Say bye-bye to artificial ingredients

As with most diets, artificial foods are a no-no; that means no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, additives or preservatives. Be sure to read the food labels when you go grocery shopping and avoid products that are not artificial-free.

Go a little nuts

Snack on nuts, but avoid heavily salted nuts. "Natural, unsalted, dry-roasted nuts are as good as it gets for a super heart-healthy fiber, protein and nutrient-rich snack," suggests Dr. Brill. "Just make sure not to go too nuts for the nuts as they pack a heavy calorie load and a little goes a long way."

Hail whole grains

Avoid breads made with refined flour, and go for the whole grain loaf. Dr. Brill advises opting for whole grains because they "fill you up, not out, and are filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber – much of which is missing if you go for refined carbs."

Fruits and vegetables at all meals

Eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies as snacks or as a side to your fish. Fruit can also replace diet-damaging high-calorie desserts. Dr. Brill calls fruits and vegetables "filler foods" because they are high in water, fiber and nutrients. However, limit starch-heavy vegetables like potatoes, and replace them with more beans or legumes, like chickpeas.

Mediterranean recipes

Ready to dig into some delicous diet-friendly Mediterranean meals? Try these mouthwatering recipes.

Next page: The east asian diet approach

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